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Subject: Help - I Got Them Rule Checkin', Slow Movin', First Playthrough Blues rss

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A M
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So my partner enjoys games, but absolutely detests the learning process, and the first playthrough. The words "feels like torture" may have been used.

I myself enjoy trying new games, but have an atrocious memory, so am constantly having to refer back to rulebooks during the first playthrough.

Does anyone have any recommendations, tips, techniques, or tricks that you use for making the learning process/first playthrough easier? (Aside from "just have your partner read the rules and explain the game," or "don't try new games.")

Would love to hear!

EDIT: to clarify, neither of us have a problem with playing more complex or heavier games. Just looking for some suggestions on easing the initial playthrough.
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'Bernard Wingrave'
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If you enjoy the learning process, you can set up the game by yourself and play through it (setting it up for two players, assuming you play mostly with just your partner) until you are completely comfortable with how everything works. For simple games this may only take a few turns and then a look at end game conditions. For longer or more complex games, you may need to play the game to completion 1 or more times.

Another option is to find an online version of the game and learn it that way. Yucata.de is an asynchronous website that has a bunch of different games you can play for free, so that would be one place to start.

Here's a great thread about teaching games, which has more ideas:
https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/299189/how-teach-games-gene...
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James Clarke
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So, you have a bad memory and your partner hates learning new rules.

Your post therefore leads me to suspect that you are making unwise game purchasing choices. There are plenty of excellent games with short and easy to learn rules.

 
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'Bernard Wingrave'
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James makes some good points as well. In looking at the games you have marked "owned" here on BGG, it looks like you have a bunch that are pretty complicated. So getting some simpler games could be a good approach.
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Eric P
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I tend to play a test game or at least a round or two solo before bringing anyone else in.
The things you have to refer to the book for in the test game will most likely be the same things others ask.

If you can see any obvious questions coming go ahead and dig into them:

"What happens if the tokens run out?"
"Do I have to move then (action) or can I (action) then move?"
"Can I move through another player's space?"

That kind of thing.

Also, watch a playthrough video - they may make some rules errors (but most videos will point them out in annotations) - but they definitely give a good idea how things work.

Also, my number one learning and teaching hack - narrate your turns.

"I pay one power to produce 2 oil here and 3 wood here, I spend 3 wood to build a mine here and get three coins."
"I have speed 3, so I go through this door, the new tile says I draw an item so drawing a card ends my movement."
"I've got 4 attack. -1 for the card is 3 damage. His shield blocks 1 so 2 damage on Bandit Guard #4 and give him a poison token"

A person might be staring at a symbol wondering what it does, but not want to ask for fear of giving away plans. When you take that action and narrate it, it clicks.

EDIT: Corrected a narrated action that was technically not correct for the game I had in my head - you would never be paying a single coin by itself to produce in Scythe.

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Posthumous Jones
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Look for a how to play video. It helps me to see a game on the table and have someone else play the first player blues.
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Highland Cow wrote:

So, you have a bad memory and your partner hates learning new rules.

Your post therefore leads me to suspect that you are making unwise game purchasing choices. There are plenty of excellent games with short and easy to learn rules.



Um . . . thanks?

Let me clarify: we both LIKE larger games, and complex ones. We also like shorter, easier games. And once we've gotten the rules down, there are no issues. What I was specifically asking about was tips for easing the learning process and the first playthrough. I'm happy to take it from there.

Also, respectfully, when someone says "hey, I'm having difficulty climbing this staircase," the best response might not be "eh, don't bother."
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Eric the GM wrote:
I tend to play a test game or at least a round or two solo before bringing anyone else in.
The things you have to refer to the book for in the test game will most likely be the same things others ask.

If you can see any obvious questions coming go ahead and dig into them:

"What happens if the tokens run out?"
"Do I have to move then (action) or can I (action) then move?"
"Can I move through another player's space?"

That kind of thing.

Also, watch a playthrough video - they may make some rules errors (but most videos will point them out in annotations) - but they definitely give a good idea how things work.

Also, my number one learning and teaching hack - narrate your turns.

"I pay one power to produce 2 oil here and 3 wood here, I spend 3 wood to build a mine here and get three coins."
"I have speed 3, so I go through this door, the new tile says I draw an item so drawing a card ends my movement."
"I've got 4 attack. -1 for the card is 3 damage. His shield blocks 1 so 2 damage on Bandit Guard #4 and give him a poison token"

A person might be staring at a symbol wondering what it does, but not want to ask for fear of giving away plans. When you take that action and narrate it, it clicks.


Great suggestions! Narration in particular would be pretty helpful - I'll give that a shot.

Eric the GM wrote:
EDIT: Corrected a narrated action that was technically not correct for the game I had in my head - you would never be paying a single coin by itself to produce in Scythe.



I'm so glad I'm not the only one who narrates and edits imaginary scenarios.
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bwingrave wrote:
James makes some good points as well. In looking at the games you have marked "owned" here on BGG, it looks like you have a bunch that are pretty complicated. So getting some simpler games could be a good approach.


To clarify, as I did with James, playing the larger and more complex games isn't an issue - we both enjoy that (and I tend to prefer them). It's just smoothing out the learning process that would be helpful.
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Charlie Pite
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I hate explaining rules to my mates, mainly because I find most rulebooks to be pretty poorly written.

I now attend a local meetup once a week where I can learn how to play games from people who either already know the rules by heart or are simply much better at understanding and articulating them after a single read-through. It's much easier for me to remember verbal explanations than written ones. Maybe this will work for you too?

It also helps a lot in deciding what games are worth buying cool
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James Clarke
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murjani1 wrote:
Highland Cow wrote:

So, you have a bad memory and your partner hates learning new rules.

Your post therefore leads me to suspect that you are making unwise game purchasing choices. There are plenty of excellent games with short and easy to learn rules.



Um . . . thanks?

Let me clarify: we both LIKE larger games, and complex ones. We also like shorter, easier games. And once we've gotten the rules down, there are no issues. What I was specifically asking about was tips for easing the learning process and the first playthrough. I'm happy to take it from there.

Also, respectfully, when someone says "hey, I'm having difficulty climbing this staircase," the best response might not be "eh, don't bother."


You're welcome. By the way, I wouldn't say anything like that to a person with a physical difficulty. I think we both understand the spirit of my comment. Maybe your choice of words like "detest", "atrocious" and "torture", rather overstate the gravity of your situation?

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Highland Cow wrote:
murjani1 wrote:
Highland Cow wrote:

So, you have a bad memory and your partner hates learning new rules.

Your post therefore leads me to suspect that you are making unwise game purchasing choices. There are plenty of excellent games with short and easy to learn rules.



Um . . . thanks?

Let me clarify: we both LIKE larger games, and complex ones. We also like shorter, easier games. And once we've gotten the rules down, there are no issues. What I was specifically asking about was tips for easing the learning process and the first playthrough. I'm happy to take it from there.

Also, respectfully, when someone says "hey, I'm having difficulty climbing this staircase," the best response might not be "eh, don't bother."


You're welcome. By the way, I wouldn't say anything like that to a person with a physical difficulty. I think we both understand the spirit of my comment. Maybe your choice of words like "detest", "atrocious" and "torture", rather overstate the gravity of your situation?



I most certainly do understand the spirit, and appreciate the input. I think I will keep searching for a more nuanced solution, however.
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Richie Freeman
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If it's a complicated game I make notes as I read the rules, which helps me commit stuff to memory anyway, but also doubles as a quicker reference point than the rules. I also make sure I play a few turns of the game against myself before trying to teach it. Not the type of stuff I play most often, but doing this has been really helpful for games like Eldritch Horror, War of the Ring, Battle of the Five Armies, Days of Ire etc.
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Rob Perry
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I have a very similar issue when introducing games to my wife and kids. They have ZERO patience for me referring back to the rulebook or not knowing the correct response for every situation that arises.

My solution was the same as mentioned several times already.

I watch a video or two first.

Then I read the rulebook.

Then I play through an entire game once or twice by myself, often speaking out loud as I make my moves.

This process coincidentally turned me into a primarily solo player, and both me and my family couldn't be happier about that!
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Play once alone, get the rules down cold.

Or agree to only play 'half a game' in order to get the rules solid, then come back to a 'full game' some other time. That's only 'half the torture'.
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DubiousHubris wrote:
I now attend a local meetup once a week where I can learn how to play games from people who either already know the rules by heart or are simply much better at understanding and articulating them after a single read-through. It's much easier for me to remember verbal explanations than written ones. Maybe this will work for you too?

There is danger here. The person explaining the game may have one or more rules wrong.

This happened to me with Villages of Valeria before I received my copy. We played the game with the wrong rules. Then I taught these same wrong rules with my copy of the game the next week. Then, when I was teaching the same wrong rules the following week, someone who knew the correct rules 'slained them correctly. Only it was hard for me to play with the correct rules because I'd already cemented the wrong rules in my mind.
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For the memory issues, before playing, look at the files section for the game and see if there are player aids to print. Or, even better read through the rules and make your own. The process of reading through and deciding what's important to note will help you learn and remember.

I'll also echo what others have said...watch it played videos and a solo game or finding a learning scenario with simpler setup/goals/optional items can be helpful.

Sometimes, my husband and I just sit down with a new game with the goal of playing through a round and putting the game away after that.
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Brad Miller
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Easy reference sheets and player aides are your friends...
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Kirk Roberts
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Try out a policy of not referencing the rule book during play. If unsure about a rule, discuss what makes the most sense and play that way then look it up afterward. This can lead to some interesting discussions and make the gameplay experience more fun (certainly more fun than looking at the rule book). If the "real" rule makes less sense than your version then either house rule it or find another game.
 
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Mindy Basi
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kirkroberts wrote:
Try out a policy of not referencing the rule book during play. If unsure about a rule, discuss what makes the most sense and play that way then look it up afterward. This can lead to some interesting discussions and make the gameplay experience more fun (certainly more fun than looking at the rule book). If the "real" rule makes less sense than your version then either house rule it or find another game.


Although this seems creative and fun, I think playing by the wrong or alternative rules can ruin a game and mess you up in later plays because its confusing for you, and others. I find house-ruling games problematic at best, anyway, since the designer did intend the game to be played as he envisioned it. Make your own rules might indeed make a game better, but it's not the game you bought.

I like the idea of watching a play through and trying it out yourself before you play it with someone else, to get back on topic.

Also, just identifying and sorting the pieces correctly can help you learn a game.
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Joe Salamone
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I agree with the people who said to play it through yourself before trying to teach someone else. I do this with almost every game I buy (2 or 3 times for more complex games). I find myself checking the rules frequently to make sure I am playing correctly . . . and checking the BGG rules forums if I need any rules cleared up. I think it is much better to do all this research before you play with another person rather than slowing down the game while you are trying to teach it to someone else.
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Tim
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+1 to checking out the files section here on BGG for each game and get a player aid to print out. I do this for all of my games (big thank you to those of you who create these) and it really helps me to remember the rules. They're also very helpful as a teaching guide that the people you are teaching can follow along with. I find that teaching while each player has a player aid improves rules retention among the "students". Give it a shot!
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Kirk Roberts
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Kwill2 wrote:
kirkroberts wrote:
Try out a policy of not referencing the rule book during play. If unsure about a rule, discuss what makes the most sense and play that way then look it up afterward. This can lead to some interesting discussions and make the gameplay experience more fun (certainly more fun than looking at the rule book). If the "real" rule makes less sense than your version then either house rule it or find another game.


Although this seems creative and fun, I think playing by the wrong or alternative rules can ruin a game and mess you up in later plays because its confusing for you, and others. I find house-ruling games problematic at best, anyway, since the designer did intend the game to be played as he envisioned it. Make your own rules might indeed make a game better, but it's not the game you bought.

To clarify my position:
#1) learn all the rules really, really well... the absolute best way to do this includes doing a play-through yourself playing as multiple players, because you'll encounter many details not made obvious by the rulebook and/or online explanations/play-throughs
#2) seriously, do a play-through on your own so you can look up things on your own time
#3) if you STILL encounter a rules question during game-play, use your best guess rather than looking it up in the rulebook or on BGG, then look it up after the game is over (of course, everyone has to be cool with that)

I consider it a big responsibility to bring a new game to other people so I prepare accordingly and hope others do the same. I'm somewhat known in my gaming circles for knowing the rules well and being a stickler about following them.

Yet, when playing games I care the most about game immersion and flow, not the sanctity of games or even the designer's intent. The game is a tool in my Fun Kit.

This is where I'm coming from when I somewhat breezily suggested to not look up a rules question during game-play. I'd rather keep flowing, but that is not an excuse for lazy preparation. Your mileage might vary.
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Amy Smith
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I personally love being coached through the first moves of game. Then reset the game and start over. For instance with the Game Dominion. I would have the person teaching me tell me what to do step by step. They can tell me how to spend, what I might buy, where to put my cards when used, when to shuffle, when to draw, and so forth. I would have them help me two or three times and then restart the game. Pause and add new info as you go along, help with strategy, invite questions, explain why you are making the choices you are, etc.

This of course relies on the teacher knowing how to play the game.

I never expect a first game to be about winning but about learning.
 
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One of my favorite methods for tackling a complex rules set is to sit down with a sheet of paper and hand-write my own "reference sheet". This includes reminders of set-up processes, general turn summaries, action lists, scoring, common exceptions, etc.

Sometimes, they'll be good enough to serve as legitimate reference sheets (my BSG-with-all-expansions sheet is still a quick-reference life saver!), but more often than not the main purpose they serve is to give me a space to organize all of the content for my brain. Once I've made it a point to go through the rules and articulate/summarize them for myself, it becomes MUCH easier to retain the knowledge.

Also, and this is counter-intuitive to the typical BGG "love to explore tons of new games" mentality that we all know so well, but a great way to really internalize a complex set of rules is to engage with it until it solidifies - which means to focus on a particular heavy game for a while until it becomes intuitive. Pair that with the reference sheet method (which you save as a memory jog for the first time you play it after a long break), and it has really helped me get a better grasp on the heavies in my own collection.

Happy hunting!
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